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Katz On Tamir & Maryland

We've spent a fair amount of time over the last few days talking to Harold

Katz, who is Tamir Goodman's high school coach, about the whole situation before
and after Goodman rejected Maryland's scholarship offer (we had also done a lengthy article earlier). 

Katz had a lot to say about Maryland.  First, he

believes that the basketball office leaked the story to the Baltimore Sun which

first suggested that Maryland was losing interest - and indeed the story cited a

source "in the athletic department."  This came out the day after
Goodman was asked to meet - alone - with Maryland coach Gary Williams and

assistant Billy Hahn.  No one except certain employees of the Baltimore Sun
(and the caller) can verify who made the call, but it's worth mentioning that if
it was anyone on the basketball staff, it was a violation of NCAA rules.

Katz suggested that Goodman bring his mom in with him, because he was wary of

sending a seventeen year old kid in to meet with guys who he believed were

attacking him through the media.  As it turned out, that was a wise

decision. Mrs. Goodman, a veteran of the Israeli army,  took notes in

Hebrew throughout the meeting. During the meeting, (there are some comments

below), Williams tried to push Goodman into giving up his ride. 

Needless to say, this is not a complete transcript of Mrs. Goodman's notes,
and since it went from Hebrew to Katz to us, there may be some things slightly
incorrect, which, if it happened is our fault, and it has also been cleaned

up, which you have to do with Gary sometimes (he's not alone in that, needless
to say). 

According to Katz, Williams kicked things off by saying, "We have a problem. We have games
and practices on Saturday we can't change." This was in reference to Goodman's
observance of the Orthodox Sabbath which is from sundown Friday to sundown

Saturday.

The Meeting

In the following exchange, TG is Tamir, MG is his Mom, and GW is Gary
Williams.

 

  • TG: "I was totally upfront. I wouldn't have come if [the Sabbath]  was going to be a problem."
  • MG: "Is this something you did not know?" 
  • GW: "You won't start because of this. If you miss Saturday you won't be able to play Sunday because you violated team rules."
  • MG: "You're comparing potatoes and apples...the kid hasn't changed one iota since the first time."
  • GW: "What do I tell the media when you can't play on Monday?"
  • GW: "You'll be the 8th or 9th man." 
  • TG: "Whatever it takes to help the team." 
  • GW: "Maybe you need to go to a smaller school."
  • GW: "Will you be quiet and please let me finish a sentence?" (to Mrs.
    Goodman)
  • GW: "It's not fair to the other guys."
  • MG: "What if he's really good? "
  • GW "Then he'll play a lot. "
  • MG "What about being fair to the other players? "
  • GW "Will you let me finish talking?" 
  • GW "You didn't play well this summer." 
  • TG  "Well no one talks about NBA camp and I played really well there. I got hurt in front of you, Coach, you saw it. "
  • GW  "Yeah, there's people saying you didn't play very well this summer."
  • MG  "Are you saying that he's not a good player?"
  • GW "Don't put words in my mouth ."

After the meeting,  Hahn pulled Tamir aside into his office.

"You need to stay the **** away from Harold

Katz," he reportedly told Tamir when they were alone.

"He's been taking care of me since I was six years old,"  Goodman
said. 

"You need to stay the **** away from him," Hahn repeated.

"You hear that bs?" Goodman told Katz later.  "That's like saying stay away from my dad."  

The way his mother and coach were treated  pretty much ended Tamir's interest in being a
Terp.

A Deteriorating
Relationship

Katz went on to discuss the deterioration of the relationship between Goodman

and Maryland, which in his opinion actually started sometime ago. 

"When did it start going bad? April or May. I try to protect Tamir...the negative stuff they'd say about his not playing on the Sabbath...I tried to keep
it from him because it wasn't relative to

him. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a big fan of Maryland and the way they

play -the flex is a high school offense, there hasn't been anyone to win on the college level with

it  It's predictable and dummied down, very simpleton type stuff. But this is the kid's decision and I'm going to support

him It's not my job to tell him where to go or not to go-the pros outweighed the

cons. I was waiting for the kid to say 'what am I doing?'  He knew my feelings on Maryland but he thought it was best and I agreed with

him 

When we asked what he thought the Maryland staff had been thinking, Katz had

this to say:  "I think they were reading interviews and watching TV and they'd heard enough (about the
Sabbath) and they thought this has to stop...they didn't want to be reminded that they gave a commitment to this

kid. My personal opinion is they ignored it and figured he'd play anyway. When

they asked me, I  told them to go ask Tamir if he'd play on Saturday If I made the choice he'd never have picked
Maryland. I'm not saying I don't give him advice, but he knew my opinion of Maryland.

If telling them to go ask Tamir is leading them on, then I'm guilty."

Katz also clarified the question of Goodman leaving voice mail as opposed to

telling Williams, Hahn, or Dickerson in a more personal manner.

"The reason he left a voice mail is [because] no one was in the office, everyone was out recruiting. He called directly to Hahn, not the

800 number.  He got voice mail because everyone was out recruiting. I tell

Tamir when you are honest you don't have to remember the lies.


"They put out stuff that wasn't true and Tamir was insulted by last Friday's Baltimore
Sun article where they were saying they were wavering on

Tamir the day after they met in the office His mom was not invited to the

meeting, they wanted him alone.  That's a greater miscarriage of honesty. Why do you want him

alone? Not that he couldn't handle himself, he wasn't intimidated by them at
all,

but have the guts to say something to him that you'd say [to his mother]." 

According to what Katz told us, after they failed to pressure Goodman into
giving up his scholarship, Williams, realizing he wouldn't win, changed his tune and said "I think you are a great player, you need to loosen up, enjoy being
Tamir."  The next day the article appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

The Coach

When we asked about how he was doing, Katz had this to say: 


"I expect them to come after me...the University and the apologists for
Gary.  I feel in good shape if Gary's supporters are criticizing me.

"Coaching was a way to reach kids and keep them off the

street. When people asked me if I had a good year I'd say ask again in twenty

years. If they stay off the street, and they're  good members of society and good parents then

I've done a good job..25-1 and kids in jail, there's no point to that.

"The same day this all happened was the eve of the Jewish New Year and I got calls from almost every one of my former players and
I was very proud of

that. It meant a lot after 18-19 years of coaching

"There's so much more to basketball than winning and losing. Life is a metaphor for
basketball.  I feel bad for coaches who don't have long-term relationships
with their players. I've  got former players having children, who come over
to the house...this is what it's about...perspective, being a good
father...that's what it's all about...the pressure of winning, all that stuff, nothing should get in the way of your personal
relationships. I got flack for riding my players pretty hard. I don't apologize for caring about my players,
I wish more coaches did. 

"I thought when they pulled him aside and told him to stay away from me, that broke the camels
back for Tamir. Tamir said,  'how are they looking out for my best interests?
They just tried to run me off and they say you don't look out for my best
interests.'"

The Family


We asked also about Goodman's parents.

"His parents are fine. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be and
[you] move on. I find it funny that people think that basketball's his number one priority, but God's in the way. God's his #1 priority, not basketball."


We also asked him to repeat a conversation he had told us earlier between
himself and Maryland assistant Dave Dickerson.

He said that Dickerson walked in to the ABCD Camp, in Teaneck,  and that
Tamir was within earshot.of this conversation.

"Can he play today?" Dickerson asked. This was after Goodman had
recently sprained his MCL.

"No," Katz said. "He can't move laterally, he's not playing
this morning."

"He should try to play tonight," he quotes Dickerson as
saying. 

"That says enough about how you  treat your players," Katz told
us  "I don't need to hear anything else...I got him out of Dodge, enough was
enough." 

Goodman did insist on playing that evening, saying " I appreciate [your concern] but
I'm gonna play." But he struggled with his injury and after that Katz took
him home.

"I let him make his own decisions. Maybe i should have exerted more influence there, that's the one thing
I feel bad about. The doctor said it wasn't gonna get worse.  If I have a regret, that's my
regret. I didn't do a good job taking care of him that week.   I understood what
Maryland was thinking and probably let that get to me more than it should. I was dumb and take responsibility for
that."

The Kid

We also asked how Tamir was doing.

"Tamir's in a good mood," he said. "He feels great. He saw the writing on the wall at some point and realized it's not going to

work.  They were dishonest with Tamir but he's just gonna move on. He has no intention of making

waves. 

"It'll be nice to hear coaches say nice things about you for a change
... every time he played well it was, 'I love you brother...' whenever he didn't
it was 'you'll never make it here.'"


"Tamir believes it's not where you play but how you grow as a person and a player and
he's relieved now that he won't be at Maryland for that reason...he's always been honest and had dignity,
he shouldn't apologize but be proud." People can make excuses for the program but that's not how you treat
teenagers.


Katz believes part of his responsibility is looking after Tamir's best
interests, and that  he has caught some heat for that. He rattles off some
of the names he's been called: "street agent, pimp, [and worse].  I get this crap that I'm self-promoting...a lot of guys have made money off
Tamir, but not me and I never

will. He's a trailblazer.  No [Orthodox Jew] has ever done this before.  

"Getting ripped by apologists for Gary Williams is complimentary. It means
I'm probably doing the right thing. We have a real problem in our society if winning glosses over being honest & the ends justify the

means. I find that if I  my coaching gets ripped by fans of Gary then I'm pretty confident in my

coaching."

He also says that at least 15 coaches have gotten in touch with Tamir to
express interest.

Our Take

To us, this whole episode speaks volumes about the people in charge at
Maryland.  From the first time we heard Billy Hahn refer to the Sabbath as
"this Saturday shit," we were uneasy.  We also were stunned that
they quickly agreed to make such unusual accommodations for Goodman - but we
were twice as stunned that they did their best to renege on the offer.  And
then the particularly nasty Washington tradition of the planted leak.  Keep
in mind that the story ran on the front page of the Baltimore Sun.  Not the
front page of the sports. A-1.  To us that indicates a supreme confidence
in the accuracy of the story.  To us that means it almost certainly came
from a basketball coach, because who else would merit A-1?   Would an
assistant? Unlikely. 

We were also disgusted by the attempted double-team of
Goodman in Williams' office, where they apparently hoped to pressure him into
giving up his scholarship.  We were also upset with the rude treatment of
his mother. This has been compared to the K-Avery situation, and while there are
some superficial similarities, there is a key difference: the Avery's told
Krzyzewski one thing and did another in short order.  In Maryland's case,
the coach seems to have been the deceptive one.  There is a world of
difference between yelling at someone who has misled you and  trying to
intimidate a 17 year old and harassing his mother because you want back what you
have promised them.

To us, what we see is an empty shell of someone who might have been a good
man, someone with some nice qualities - intensity, hard work, overcoming modest
beginnings and minimal talent - but who has succumbed to blind ambition to the
point where he's perfectly willing to screw a 17 year old kid out of a dream
that he, Gary Williams, had given him, only to yank it away.  What a
miserable excuse for a man.

Opposite that, diametrically opposed in fact, we see a kid who, at 17, has
his priorities stunningly in order. In a society which is increasingly
materialistic and amoral, and which celebrates athletes as demigods, Goodman has
no doubts as to who is truly worth worshiping.  He loves basketball 
and has a rare intelligence for the game, but basketball doesn't rule him. 
In a lot of ways, funny though it may sound Goodman reminds us of a certain
American archetype - Tom Joad,  Larry Bird, General Billy Mitchell, Omar
Bradley,  Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Stewart  - people who
knew who they were, who knew where they stood and had no need to tell you or
even to be demonstrative - but you can't budge them when they think they're
right.  It's no coincidence that among his latest
admirers is Red Auerbach, who reportedly has great admiration for Goodman's
convictions.  Tamir's world is based on firm convictions and beliefs.
Basketball is a wonderful game, a thing of beauty, as Harold Katz said, a
metaphor for life. But it's a metaphor. It's not life.  Sometimes you have
to give up things you love for things you live.  Not many people are mature
enough to do that at 17, to live that honestly and simply.   We're not
there yet and we've lived much longer than has Tamir.

Certainly Gary Williams, with his recent clumsy attempts to rid himself of a
perceived liability which was solely self-inflicted,  and enough personal
baggage to dog him to the end of his days even if he miraculously joins the
priesthood,  has never gotten to that point. To sum this
whole stinking mess up, Gary Williams will always be susceptible to the
truth. The truth will likely always be his enemy.